Development FAQ: 6-12 months – Other Advice

What are the dangers of rough play with a 10-month-old?

What are the dangers of rough play with a ten-month-old? My husband likes to play with James in a very physical way, which leaves me unable to watch. I have told him of the dangers of flipping James’ neck too much, but James seems to love it and will cling to his father’s legs begging for more. Is rough play just a father/son thing?

There are some dangers in rough play with babies, but if both baby and father enjoy such times then, given a few guidelines, there is no reason to stop your husband. In fact, babies and small children benefit from this kind of play. It is mostly instigated by men and is part of their bonding process with their child. It helps a child learn self-control and self-confidence, and gives them an awareness of their bodies. Fathers may be unable to explain why they play like this with their children, but it seems to be an instinctive way of communicating.

All babies love and crave movement. They have a highly developed vestibular system, which originates in the inner ear and is responsible for their sense of balance and perception of movement. Small babies love rocking, swaying or being pushed in the pram, as it soothes this system and helps them to relax.

At between six and twelve months, a baby gains more control over his head muscles. His vestibular system is now at its most sensitive and he enjoys movement of all kinds, especially rocking and bouncing. Head banging can also become an issue at this time. But with the growing awareness of ‘shaken baby syndrome’, it is important to know what is and isn’t safe. No father would want their baby to be hurt with this type of play, so explaining the dangers and giving some guidelines is sensible:

1. Don’t let your baby’s head flop around, and be aware of your baby’s ability to control it. This means that actually throwing a baby in the air should be avoided, but by all means “fly” them while securely holding their body with both hands;
2. Don’t swing your baby by the arms or hands, as his joints are still loose and easily dislocated;
3. Encourage your husband to “chase” James if he is a crawler. Provide them with a tunnel of some kind and they will both enjoy it. Balls can also be fun and men are often good at making up games with these;
4. A session of tickling can produce squeals of laughter, but be aware that some babies have a lower tolerance level than others. The laughter you hear is involuntary. It is the body’s response to the stimulation of pain receptors in the skin. Watch your babies face or body language for signs that he has had enough.

Although you personally may not want to have rough and tumble sessions with your baby, see these times as ones of bonding between father and son and let them enjoy it.